The idea? Every day in May, to mark NZ Music Month and 38 years of his own rancid opining and reportage, Gary Steel will present something from his considerable behind. Personal archive, that is. This week, Steel regurgitates a short story on Graham Brazier, originally published in the RTR Countdown magazine in November 1987.
BAD BOY GETS BADDER AND BETTER
Graham Brazier insists there has been no fundamental philosophical departure since the young, leather-jacketed singer helped to revolutionise NZ rock with Hello Sailor in the mid-70s.
“Bad boy grows up and becomes bad man,” growls the new look Brazier. “No, I don’t think so, I just sort of blunder on.”
Graham’s first album, Inside Out, turned out to be what the industry call a “sleeper”: a record which fails to set the charts on fire, but sells steadily over a long period. The album now has Gold status.
That was 1981. The new album – still waiting for a name-tag at press time – comes after time spent reunited with his cobbers in Hello Sailor, whose last album he describes as a disgrace. “We tried to use overseas people where we should have been using New Zealanders.”
The second solo record gives Graham the opportunity to get down on vinyl an accumulation of six years of songwriting. It’s characterised by material which Graham described as “bedroom songs, very personal songs” played in a “variety of styles, from almost icy ballads to rock.”
“Because these songs were written around an acoustic guitar, the voice gets more of a chance to get showcased.”
A key to the quality, says Graham, is the overall song standard. That means good tunes and, more important, great lyrics. “I can’t stand wimpy lyrics, or lyrics that don’t mean anything. A good lyric should convey some sort of atmosphere to the listener.”
The big surprise is the vocal maturity. “I’m the first to admit that when I started singing, I couldn’t sing. It was just tenacity and perseverance. And without sounding like a fathead – I’ve been singing regularly for 10 years – I think my voice has improved, it’s got more depth, and it’s got a tone now that it didn’t have.”
And with the new deal, Graham should get the sort of push he deserves. The chance to tour here and overseas would suit him down to the ground but, as Graham says, “I’m dressed up to go to the party and just waiting to get invited.”
Notes: I don’t know why it was such a short piece. I remember meeting up with Brazier in a recording studio where he talked at length, but no interview transcript has turned up. Sadly, some of my history ended up mouldering away under former girlfriends’ houses or got lost in the confusion of moving from flat to flat. Peter Avery took the excellent pics – Peter was responsible for some key photographic work of the ’80s, including some of the best shots of the ’81 Springbok Tour riots, and lots of local and international bands, but he’s completely dipped out of site these days. I penned the piece shortly after the launch of teen pop publication RTR Countdown, and was busy being editor, so I probably just ran out of time to write a decent story.